Private bus operators in Karnataka hike ticket prices by 50% ahead of first phase LS polling

All the private bus operators have increased the bus ticket price anywhere between 50 to 90 percent for the long-distance routes when compared to the SRTCs.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 25, 2024 | 10:33 AMUpdatedApr 25, 2024 | 10:33 AM

Private buses, Karnataka (iStock)

Ahead of the first phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka on 26 April, private bus operators have hiked the bus tariff by at least 50 percent, compelling voters to shell out more money from their pockets.

The private operators have hiked the prices of non-AC sleeper and seater buses by at least 50 percent and AC sleeper buses by around 80 to 90 percent when compared to the State Road Transport Corporations (SRTCs).

The prices of SRTCs remain unchanged. However, expecting overcrowding, the transport department has kept buses on standby for all the routes from Bengaluru and in other districts headquarters as well.

However, the Federation of Private Transport Association (FPTA) defends the price hike, with hikes in fuel and tax prices in recent years.

On the other hand, the transport department officials express helplessness as there are no stringent laws to regulate the private bus tariffs in Karnataka.

The complaints regarding the private buses price hike during festivals and such events are said to have compelled the government to work on the policy to regulate prices of private buses in the coming days.

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Ticket hike for private buses between 50 to 90 percent

With countdown begun for the first phase of the 2024 parliament elections in Karnataka, the people are being compelled to shell out at least 50 percent more on private bus tickets than the normal price.

All the private bus operators have increased the bus ticket price anywhere between 50 to 90 percent for the long-distance routes when compared to the SRTCs.

However, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is offering AC sleeper for ₹1,304, non-AC sleeper for ₹910, and prices for AC and non-AC seater ticket at prices ranging from ₹1,003 to ₹1,250 and ₹754, respectively, for the Bengaluru to Mangaluru route.

The private bus operators are charging ₹1,500 to ₹2,840 for AC sleeper, ₹1,600 to ₹1,900 for non-AC sleeper, and over ₹1,500 for non-AC seater  for the same route.

The prices of the same buses will be at least 50 to 90 percent lesser during off-season. Similarly, the private operators have increased the bus tariff of all the long-distance routes.

“It is only the KSRTC that does not hike or change the bus tariff. The private players loot on such occasions. I have booked a private bus, where I am compelled to pay at least 60 percent more than the normal bus fare,” techie Sanjay Shetty, a resident of Udupi, told South First.

“The government has to put an end to this unscientific price hike during festival seasons and such events. We are going to exercise our franchise, which is our basic right. The authorities concerned must roll out policies to regulate prices of private players as well,” urged Shetty, whose office has declared holiday on the polling day.

Meanwhile, the KSRTC has made necessary bus arrangements to address the overcrowding on the penultimate day of the first phase of the polling in 14 constituencies.

“There will be no shortage of buses as the election is being held in two phases. The department has kept several buses on standby across the 14 segments. If the demand is more on a particular route, then additional buses will be pressed into service,” KSRTC PRO Latha told South First.

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Transport Association defends price hike

While the people call out the private operators for the hike in bus tariff, the Federation of Private Transport Association defends its decision of increasing the bus charges, citing the difficulties of transport operators.

The private players have increased the bus tariff between 50 to 90 percent when compared to the SRTCs for the first phase of the parliament elections.

“It is not just the private bus operations but even flight and cab operators also hike the ticket price during such events. It is also the season for the private operators,” FPTA President Natraj Sharma told South First.

“We operate empty buses during the off-season and most of the weekdays. Hence, all the private operators increase the bus tariff during festivals and other seasons,” said Sharma.

“The private bus operators need to pay ₹1.20 lakh to ₹1.90 lakh as tax for every quarter. Additionally, we have to pay insurance around ₹3.5 lakh to ₹4.5 lakh annually, which has been exempted to SRTCs as they have their own insurance policy,” he said.

“Even the price of fuel has surged by almost 40 percent since 2020. The price of diesel was hovering around ₹60 per litre in 2020, whereas it has been hiked to around ₹90 per litre. If the prices of fuel and taxes continue to hike, how should private bus operators sustain and run the business?” asked Sharma.

On transport department officials’ claims that they would file a case against the private players for increasing the bus fare during the elections, he said, “I have a simple question to the officials concerned. Under what sections or provisions of laws will they book us?”

“There are no specific laws on price regulation. One must also understand that luxury segments have been exempted from the price regulation. We are not forcing anyone to take our service. It is left to the people,” added Sharma.

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Government mulling new policy for price regulation

As the grievances against the private bus operators over the unscientific price hike during festivals are swelling, the Karnataka government is planning to implement a new policy in the coming days.

The government is said to be making deliberations with the stakeholders over rolling out a separate policy to monitor ticket prices of the private operators in the state.

“The department is filing cases whenever there are complaints against the private bus operators for increasing ticket prices during festivals and such events,” Assistant Commissioner of Transport (South) C Mallikarjuna told South First.

“There are also no policies to monitor the prices of private bus operators. Hence, the government is planning to roll out an exclusive policy to regulate the price of private operators,” said ACT Mallikarjuna.

“Importantly, the people do not come forward to complain about the price rise. We will not be able to take action until and unless someone files a complaint against this kind of price hike,” he said, urging the people to raise their voices.

On whether they had meetings with stakeholders over regulating price hike, he said, “We had chaired a couple of meetings with transport associations and owners on the matter. They were pointing at private aggregators (For ex: RedBus, Abhi Bus applications), who are said to control these prices.”

“Because of these aggregators, they are unable to do much about the price hike. We do not have any policies for taking action against these aggregators,” he said.

“Considering all the factors, the state government is likely to roll out a fare revision system, where the price of private buses will be revised whenever there is a need. The government is serious about it,” added ACT Mallikarjuna.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)